Two hundred papers were presented at the conference on a variety of topics, in the form of lectures, panels and posters. In the course of the conference there were also two special Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund sessions, which included lectures on forest interface issues and on the subject of the public and the community in Israel's forests. The conference was organized by ISEES in conjunction with the Megiddo Regional Council, which hosted it, the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection (IMEP), and KKL JNF.
In addition to the academic discussions at the conference, there were also tours of the Ramot Menashe biospheric park, a bicycle path dedication, a community service research fair and even a release of Lesser Kestrel chicks by local schoolchildren participating in a special educational project.
A biosphere reserve is an area that has been accorded statutory status and integrates its natural and human components in a single relational unit that obligates both sides. The natural ecosystem is granted protection along with measured consideration for human needs. The populations that live in a biosphere reserve take on norms of behavior with regard to the natural environment. Integration between protecting nature and land development is a central principle in terms of practical approach.
In his opening greetings, Prof. Ido Itzhaki, who chaired the conference, emphasized the connection between academic study and the field. “The question that faces us is how to turn a biospheric reserve into a social and economic success.”
Dr. Marcelo Sternberg, ISEES chairman, said there are many issues that affect an ecosystem. “Our aim is to increase awareness of the subject and encourage scientific research and public discourse.”
Hanan Erez, head of the Megiddo Regional Council, said that UNESCO is about to approve Ramat Menashe as a biospheric park, an excellent reason to be holding the conference in this location.
Yael Shaltieli, KKL JNF CEO, spoke about the UN declaration of 2011 as the Year of the Forest. “Today we understand the central role of forests in land preservation and combating desertification. KKL JNF’s knowledge in these areas is appreciated worldwide.” She also said that forests are not immune to harm, pests, fires and drought. “KKL JNF copes with these challenges, among other things, by research and development of forestry methods pursuant to changes caused by global warming.”
Dr. Sinaia Netanyahu, Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, explained that a biosphere reserve allows for a balance between protecting nature and land development. “Environmental issues affect all of us, and there is a lot of work ahead,” she concluded.
Reducing Greenhouse Gases
A special panel led by Prof. Ofira Ayalon met to discuss the national plan for reducing greenhouse gases (GHG). The government of Israel has defined a goal of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, as declared by President Shimon Peres at the Copenhagen Conference, which was attended by a KKL JNF delegation. According to the experts, this is a modest goal, maybe too modest, but the State of Israel is having difficulty attaining it nevertheless.
MK Dov Hanin said that the residents of Israel are also citizens of the world, and it is their duty to be part of the global solution. “We cannot go on living as we are living at present. The international political system has not yet succeeded in effecting social and cultural change.” According to MK Hanin, we should also see the climate crisis as an opportunity for significant environmental change, such as the transition to public transportation.
Yael Cohen-Paran, representing the Israel Energy Forum (IEF), said that the program for reducing GHG emissions is certainly a breakthrough, but it has to be expanded, and its performance has to be ensured.
Eran Yaakov, Israel Tax Authority Deputy Director General of Finance and Development, presented the Green Tax Program—tax benefits to encourage more energy efficiency, less pollution and green construction. “The goal is to cause changes in consumer considerations,” he explained. There are examples of success already, he said, such as the transition to motor vehicles that cause less pollution.
Atty. Linor Sagi represented Forum 15, a group of municipalities that signed a convention (2008) for the promotion of local sustainability and sustainable development. These local authorities made a commitment to work on reducing air pollution and GHG emissions, to encourage mass transit, improve green spaces, save energy and promote green construction. “This is about a new field of knowledge being introduced to the municipal councils,” she said, “and it is a shared learning process that is now in full swing.”
Forest Interface Issues
Dr. Yagil Osem led a panel on the subject of forest interface issues, which included several KKL-JNF representatives. Hagi Yablovich, a KKL JNF forester in the Ben Shemen region, spoke about the natural renewal of forests of Jerusalem pines in arid regions. Research he conducted for his master thesis focused on the Yatir Forest, which was planted in the 1960s. The aim of the study was to see if a forest could renew itself by natural processes, or if human intervention was necessary. The research included checking the seed production of the trees, seed survival, the benefits of shade and agrotechnical methods.
In the study, close to 1,000 seedlings were found per dunam, but almost all of them dried up and died by the end of the summer. Compared to other forests in Israel, it was found that there are less pinecones in Yatir, where the pinecones are smaller and contain fewer seeds.
Agrotechnical methods were tested for increasing the survival of seedlings by irrigation at different time periods, in different quantities and by different proportions of shade and sun. It became clear that the survival of the sprouted saplings depended mainly on irrigation. Without irrigation they didn’t survive. The final conclusion was that the forest had no natural future, and human intervention is necessary for its continued existence. In recent years, KKL JNF has been diversifying the tree species there, but with regard to the majority of the forest, which is based on pines, a decision will have to be made about how to proceed.
Elie Benichou gave a talk on the growth and survival of oaks after having been transplanted, with regard to habitat and characteristics of the tree. Transplanting mature trees is done mainly for the sake of saving ancient and rare trees, creating a park forest within a short time frame or clearing areas for grazing.
The study investigated the main factors that influence the absorption and survival of the Tabor oak in the area of Hamovil Junction in the initial years after absorption. The goal of the research was to see when it was possible to stop irrigating the trees without endangering them or inhibiting their growth. The factors tested were tree trunk diameter, quality of roots, when irrigation was discontinued, type and depth of soil.
91% of the Tabor oaks survived more than three years. Naturally, trees with better quality roots survived more and developed better. The largest survival percentage was found in trees facing south. It was found that the deeper the soil, the lower the survival rate dropped, because terra rossa soil does not retain water, which makes it difficult for the trees to get through the summer. Rendzina soil on chalk bedrock gave the best results. Tree trunk diameter has no effect on survival probabilities. Discontinuation of irrigation after two to three years did not harm the trees, although it did slow down the growth.
Nir Har, of the KKL JNF Afforestation Department, spoke about soil, bedrock and flora as the determining factors in an ecologic-biospheric system. He presented the Ramat Menashe region as an example and focused on explanations about the creation of the various habitats where there are forests today.
David Avlagon presented a study on the benefits of grazing in British Park. In his research, which was done together with Noam Seligman, plant life in the park from 2003 to 2005 was monitored. The purposes of the park are absorption of the public, preservation of agricultural history, and caring for its scenic and natural value. There are a number of beef cattle herds and sheep herds that graze there. The contribution of the herds included reduction of biomass for prevention of fires, creation of a “grazing line” for improving the view of the trees, opening access routes for hikers and fertilization of the soil. The variegation in use of grazing areas allows for the development of different habitats. It was found that the scope of grazing in British Park is relatively moderate, and the contribution of the herds is subsequently minor.
The Public and the Community in the Forest
Another session in which KKL JNF personnel participated dealt with the interface of the public and the community in the forests of Israel and was led by David Brand, KKL-JNF Chief Forester. Brand opened the session by saying that KKL JNF invests a great deal of resources in infrastructure and research in the field of public activities in the forests.
Moshe Shaler, KKL-JNF Forest and Community Coordinator, spoke about the community forest. These forests are generally in close proximity to residential areas, accessible to local residents, and they primarily serve the local population. He presented examples of the contributions of community forests in New York, Manchester, Korea and, obviously, Israel, where community forests have been established all over the country in recent years.
“92% of Israel’s inhabitants live in urban areas, and bringing the city and nature together is a big challenge,” said Shaler. “If KKL JNF avoided the cities in the past, because the forests there were so small, today it is clear to us that we have to focus in that direction, too. There are environmental, social and economical advantages to a community forest, which contribute towards community empowerment, environmental education and relaxation for body and soul.”
The leading principles in community afforestation are: preservation and enhancement of the forest and of its natural and historical value; collaboration between forest management, local council and community; minimal development; free access and no fees for use. “The goal,” concluded Brand, “is to involve the community in all stages of the work, so that the residents feel the forest is truly theirs.”
Surveys taken by KKL JNF showed that in residential locations that have a community forest, the people are more pleased by the city in which they live, and they have greater satisfaction from life in general.
Sheli Ben-Yishai, a KKL JNF forester, spoke about the community forest in Migdal Haemek. “I realized that if we want to preserve the forest, we have to involve the community,” he said. Combined task forces were formed with the local council and the residents. There was a workshop for public participation. A system of volunteers was created, about 40 forest trustees, who now organize different activities in the forest.
Gidi Bashan presented the development of the Sataf springs in the Judean Mountains as a model for site restoration, species preservation and community involvement. Most of the work on the site is done by volunteers, who come there to work on maintenance and development—building terraces, cleaning the pools, doing agricultural work and more. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the site.
Aviram Zuk, KKL JNF Eastern Galilee and Golan Regional Director, spoke about the Hula Lake and its contribution to nature and to the community. The project, which was undertaken in the 1990s, had three goals: preservation of the water quality of Lake Kinneret, improving agriculture, and tourism development. These goals were fully achieved. Nature recovered quickly and became an attraction, with watching the birds that rest in the region as they migrate is the most popular experience.
In 2010, there were 315,000 visitors to the site (compared to 60,000 in 2003). Profitability of the agriculture doubled, from 15 million dollars to 30 million, following the peat soil restoration. The Hula Park employs about 80 local residents, and the financial benefits of the site are approximated at 16 million dollars (including hotels, restaurants, gas stations, shops and other services).
KKL JNF participates in the management of the site through monitoring (water, plant life, birds, wildlife, erosion) and through many research studies. It implements the restoration and development of the site with the support of its friends all over the world.
In his presentation, Aviram Zuk also related to the crane management project, which involves controlled removal of the fowl from agricultural areas and feeding them in a determined location. This prevents agricultural damage and enables viewing the cranes. “The role of KKL JNF,” said Zuk, “is to be the balancing factor between nature, tourism and agriculture, and this is certainly no simple task.”
A Variety of Fascinating Lectures
The talks presented at the KKL JNF sessions got a lot of attention, and the rooms were packed with listeners. Obviously, however, in the course of the two days of the conference there were scores of other fascinating and relevant lectures.
Esther Lachman, an ecological consultant, spoke about core areas in the biosphere reserves of the world at a session that dealt with planning issues. The core is the area with the natural value or historical value that is in need of protection. In the course of her work, Lachman examined core areas in different regions of the world and investigated which models could be suitable for Israel. It was found that most of the core areas are nature reserves, which were often declared reserves before the biospheric reserve was declared.
According to the basic paradigm, the core area should be a place without human activity, but it turns out that in many places this is not feasible, because when the places were declared biosphere reserves and statutory protection was granted, there already was human activity going on that could not be undone.
A special session was dedicated to the subject of brush fires and forest fires, with the participation of scientists from Haifa University, Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University and the Volcani Institute. One of the lectures was a report on the changes in the Carmel Forest due to the fires over the last hundred years, based on the research of Dan Malkinson and Leah Wittenburg. It was found that areas forested by pines are more susceptible to the expansion of fires. As a result of many fires in a relatively small region, there are some areas that were damaged three times in the last twenty years. Recurrent fires caused significant changes in the structure of the plant life community and its character.
Another study, done by a team of scientists at Tel Aviv University, the Volcani Institute and the La Corona University in Spain, investigated the effect of forest fires on the chemical and physical attributes of rendzina soil and their effect on erosion and runoff processes in Mediterranean regions. It was found that in soil that has been exposed to heat and direct fire, water penetration is greater and there is less erosion. From the study one could conclude that a forest fire may increase soil stability and thus decrease erosion.
In addition to the lectures, some of the people who attended the conference went on a tour of Ramat Menashe Biospheric Park. They saw, at close range, the dilemmas of site management. For example, what do you do when the farmers spray their fields without coordinating with other parties that are affected? What happens when an army tent camp is set up in the middle of a core area that is supposed to be undisturbed? How do you deal with the effects of cattle on plant life?
Without a doubt, the presentations and other activities enriched the participants and increased awareness of the balance required between the protection of nature and the needs of people, which is something KKL JNF deals with on a daily basis.
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